by Swami Yogananda
East-West, Jan.-Apr. 1927
First come first served. That has been mostly your worst calamity. The unwelcome habits that came earliest in your life have kept you quite busy now and have crowded out many worthwhile things of life. The social world moves on the wheels of certain habits. Few realize whither the social machinery is headed—to the chasm of ignorance or towards the mire of petty engagements, which choke the steady progressive activities of life.
How many times card and dancing parties, over-gorged amusement hunger, time-killing, progress-murdering mental idleness, initiativelessness, ambitionlessness have stood in your way and persuaded you to ignore and break your engagement with worthwhile objects of life, even though you are fastidiously punctual in keeping their daily engagements with useless doings.
When an overdose of drugging sleep makes you lazy and a late riser on Sunday mornings you forget your real engagement. On late waking you find the delaying-to-dress habit stands in your way, beckoning you not to go out of your home, and you easily break your engagement with the spirituality-stimulating atmosphere of the temple or church.
Your business engagements are important, and for them you sacrifice your equally important engagements of daily physical exercise, or of bathing the nerves and mind with showers of peace by meditation.
Evenness of Development
Just because your business engagements have been considered most important, they have always come first in your consideration. And they yet remain most important and they will remain so until you are called away in the Mystery beyond. But I preach evenness of development and of demonstrating prosperity—I do not believe in the spiritual sense being drugged and chloroformed by business madness or any kind of madness. Many think that unless one is “at it” day and night he is going to be left behind. That is not true. The one-sided business-bent man, forgetful of his other duties of life, is not the truly successful man. It requires greater and greater skill to live life evenly, rightly and successfully. He who only keeps engagement with money is left behind by God.
Yet God talks to us very loudly through the pangs of hunger which He has given us so that we should get busy and make money to support our physical bodies. Yet it seems that just maintaining our physical bodies by using up all our mental powers is not the goal of life. There is little difference between eating food from a gold plate or an iron plate. The food in both cases is equally satisfying to hunger. Then why concentrate on unnecessary “necessities” or go on constantly multiplying self-created useless desires for more? To create such meaningless demands for luxuries is to be engaged night and day, giving one’s life blood in the pursuit of getting things which one does not need.
The West is suffering from over-production due to concentration on unnecessary objects of luxury—and the East is suffering from lack of adequate production and the supply of many real necessities. The height of contrast is reached when we find some Western ladies wearing shoes with fifty dollars’ worth of jewel-studded heels—and most of the Eastern women going wholly without shoes amidst clay and rain and maybe catching cold.
Overactivity vs. Idleness
In the West many factories close due to competition and over-production, and the East suffers from want of factories. In the West the people are too busy finding the will-o’-the-wisp of comfort; in the East some people try to preserve comfort by one being very active and by dreading material activity, which produces laziness. Comfort can only be acquired by a balanced attitude, a self-mastery which makes it possible for one to be comfortably active and actively comfortable.
Engagements with Over-activity and Mr. Idleness both lead to misery. It is high time for the modern man to shake his drowsiness of centuries and systematize his life. The primitive man led a wild life in everything. The modern man has learned to apply science, psychology and system to his business, which are nothing but devices for his material comfort. The real man ought to apply the system and science to make his health, prosperity, social and international-world life and wisdom better and of scientific certainty. In order to do that he must not give all his time to business, which only ensures the hope of physical comfort. How people forget that increase in cost of living too luxuriously means the corresponding increase in using too much nerve and brain energy, expenditure of longevity, to gain the conditions of a luxurious life! Besides, most people become so engrossed and engaged in making money that they cannot utilize the conditions of comfort after acquiring them.
Systematize and schedule your engagements—let none, especially your bad habits, sway or influence your judgment. Let the secretary of your true judgment arrange your life’s daily itinerary.
Culture Habit of Meditation
Your engagement with business is important, but your appointment of serving others is more important, and your engagement with Meditation, Home, God and Truth is most important. Don’t say you are too busy with worries and cares of keeping the wolf from the door to get time for the culture of Heavenly qualities.
Break your self-satisfied, immovable old dogged bad habits of idolizing your less important engagements and utterly ignoring the most important engagement with wisdom. No one else will answer for your actions, though others often become instruments in keeping you enmeshed in useless frivolities and so-called important engagements.
O sleeping Image of God, wake up—make the determination and the effort to know the right law which will enable you to keep your most important engagement with yourself—to know thyself (Soul).
Do not say, “I will meditate on the Cosmic Being tomorrow.” That tomorrow will never come. Begin your meditation today. Today’s practice will stimulate the desire to meditate tomorrow deeper, whereas this day’s negligence will weaken your craving. Do not be lured by bad habits and paltry useless-vanity-engagements into crowding out God-contact.
The world creates in you bad habits, but the world will not stand responsible for your actions springing from those habits. Then why give all the time to the world? Reserve even an hour a day for actual soul to soul God-realization. Doesn’t the Giver of the world itself, of your family, money and everything, deserve one twenty-fourth part of your time?
Your greatest and most important engagement is with God and seeking His Truth through the eyes of wisdom and daily discipline!